Tips for Using Mind Yeti with Toddlers: Keep Calm and Smell the Soup
As a mother of two young children and an executive at a busy nonprofit organization, I find the concept of mindfulness a bit daunting. My life revolves around the next thing I have to do. Being a working parent can make me want to do anything but pay attention to what is going on in the present moment—especially now that I have two toddlers in the house. When I was introduced to mindfulness, my first reaction was “no thanks.” Who wants to be tuned into a tantrum? Or be focused on your body when you’re mostly running on fumes?
So, it was with great skepticism and trepidation that I tried Mind Yeti. What spurred me to use the site despite my feelings? The thing that pushes most parents and caregivers to try something new with their kids—desperation. Let me set the scene:
My three-year-old son, normally a thoughtful, quiet child, has turned into a mini-tyrant when it comes to his one-year-old sister. When baby sis came on the scene, he was—at first—delighted. He wanted to hold and kiss her all time. He was gentle and loving. Sometimes he’s still that way. He’s excited to be a brother, insisting (despite our protests) that we call him “Bubba,” in the hope she’ll use it as his special nickname. Now that his sister is mobile, however, my sweet little boy knows his space, his toys, and the attention of the adults in his life are shared commodities. His reaction? Exploring the previously uncharted territory of sibling rivalry. He throws tantrums, pinches the baby, and steals and hoards all the toys in the house. To nip this behavior in the bud, we turned to the tactic of calm reasoning. As you might imagine, that failed spectacularly and we quickly turned to time out. Time out is a short-term solution and doesn’t address the core issue—our son is experiencing big emotions and having trouble controlling those emotions.
One frustrating Sunday afternoon, I was at my wits’ end after a weekend of dealing with challenging behaviors. Then, my son pushed over his sister, stole her stuffed animal, and screamed at the top of his lungs when I tried to intervene. I decided to try something new. I pulled up Mind Yeti and told him we needed to find a way to calm down so we could talk about what happened and the consequences of his actions. To my surprise, Mind Yeti totally diffused the situation. He was able to calm his emotions and control his body within the first half of theSlow Breathing 1 session.
In the past, we’d tried to use deep breathing with our son to help him calm down. Mind Yeti gives him techniques for actually thinking about his breath and his body and helps him get through his anger. The description of smelling soup and then blowing on it is so concrete he finally gets how to breathe in a way that allows him to calm his body and his mind.
Since that first time, we’ve used Mind Yeti as often as we need it. Because Mind Yeti is designed for children older than my son, here are some tips that helped me make it most effective for my three-year-old:
• I show him the video introduction before we start. He loves the Yeti and it gets him to focus on the experience.
• We mainly use the sessions in the “Learn the Basics” and “Calm Down” categories and we do the sessions together as a family rather than me leading him through them.
• We sit on the floor and he sits between my legs with his back against me so he can feel my breathing. This helps him focus and makes him feel connected.
• Sometimes the pauses between spoken instructions are a bit long for his attention span. If he gets antsy when waiting for the next speaking part, I repeat the previous instruction. For example, I repeat “smell the hot soup, now blow on the soup.” I also lift his hand to his face so he can feel his breath on his hand throughout the sessions.
• We do sessions at different times of the day, not just when he’s overexcited or angry. And, if he asks to do a session, I try to accommodate it. He likes Mind Yeti so I don’t want him to start acting out just so he gets to do sessions!
• I don’t try to start sessions during a tantrum or period of emotional distress. Instead, I try to remind him of the breathing techniques and phrases from sessions to help him calm down or focus. Once he’s able to listen to me, I then suggest we listen to “Yeti.”
I’ve found that mindfulness does have a place in my busy life and busy home. Taking time out to breathe has been valuable for my son, and also for myself and my partner. We’ll be continuing to rely on Mind Yeti as a tool to help us “settle the Hubbub” as my son and daughter grow.
Andrea leads Committee for Children’s marketing, client relations, and communications teams. She is also mother of two small children.